It’s summer 1974, and the biggest news stories (depending on your age) involve looking up: Nixon choppers out of Dodge for the last time, and Evel Knievel rides a red-white-and-blue rocket high over Snake River Canyon. Can anyone top that? Mais oui! French street performer Philippe Petit successfully mashed up elements of both stories (lawbreaking, risk-taking, spectacle) by walking a tightrope between the barely completed Twin Towers in New York City.
James Marsh’s dizzying documentary Man on Wire (limited release begins 7/25) plays like the best heist movie, with Petit and his co-conspirators plotting for months to pull off the impossible (and the truly terrifying). Prepare to shudder like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo as Petit takes his first steps between the buildings. You wait for the inevitable epilogue, but Marsh takes the high road. A beautifully chilling photograph, taken from street level, of Petit and a commercial airliner frozen between the towers says enough.
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